How NOT to "Not Look Old"

Lianne in her electric Fiat
Me at 60 in my electric Fiat
Cosmic CoAuthors work with us in such subtle ways, their influence is almost indetectable. Almost. They nudge and encourage, silently dropping ideas into our minds, leading us in and out of learning situations with gentle hints. Only later can I detect their unmistakeable fingerprints, usually by realizing, “Hey! That was no ‘coincidence!’” It happened to me again yesterday.

I’d been drawn to a library book about how not to look old, probably because I just passed my sixtieth birthday last month. Yikes! Maybe I should be concerned? Dress differently? Wear different makeup?

This coincides with my recent loss of thirty pounds, and my sudden overpowering need to clear clutter from every drawer, closet, box, and garage. (The first “coincidence,” in fact, was at a local author event, where I “randomly” chose a seat next to the author of a book titled If Clutter Could Talk, shortly after I began this cleaning adventure. I recommend it.)

She achieved the ultimate defeat of aging . . .

Using author Tracy Paye’s good advice, I’ve been giving away bags and bags of clothing, furnishings, and knick-knacks, sorting and arranging even the spice cabinet. Consciously, I thought I was getting ready to dive into my new writing project, but I’ve noticed how much better I feel with each load carted away. Things are energy. Thoughts are energy. I am energy. These old bits and shards of life gone by were also energy—energy that now feels heavy, old, unnecessary, and weighty. When it goes, each time, I feel like I’m bouncing back up to the top of the ocean for a nice breath of clean air!

So a book about revamping my wardrobe seemed like a timely idea. In fact, I’ve now read two or three. The first one, French Women Don't Get Facelifts by Mireille Guiliano, made me feel old while I was reading it, but it was filled with ideas I like and have practiced for some time now, so I’ll forgive her. She has been one of my favorite authors ever since French Women Don't Get Fat.

The second one, Wear This, Toss That!, added few new ideas to help me sort the closet in readiness for my new wardrobe. I’ve been privileged to work with a style consultant over the years (Renaissance by Rosalie) so I recognized that some of the advice was exactly opposite of what my body feels best in. I’m using what’s useful, tossing the rest—of the author's advice, that is.

But the third one, which I had to wait for at the library, sucked me right in. Page after page of detailed instructions about how to defeat aging via surgeries, girdles (now politely referred to as shapewear), and not one but four layers of chemical products on the face!

You're Smearing What On Your Face?

The author was a frequent television guest and a beauty editor of famous fashion magazines. Surely she must be right about first slathering the face with serum, then moisturizer, then foundation primer, then a new, high-tech-miracle, silicone-based foundation?

I gave up foundation first in my twenties, when my brand new Cosmic CoAuthors pointed out that smearing chemical concoctions on my face wasn’t a good idea. Of course, back then I must have had pretty good skin because it was easy to do. After style consultations taught me how to apply it correctly, I went back to wearing some foundation in my thirties. But abandoned it again in my forties when it started to show every line and wrinkle. Ahhh, my face could breathe again! Back then, I used nothing but sunscreen-infused moisturizers, a little blush, and eye makeup. Including occasional blue and purple eyeshadows I haven’t yet given up. Oops?

So this idea of neutral palettes on the eyes made sense, and newfangled foundations that fill in wrinkles with silicone? I was nearly convinced to try it. But first I moved on to the lingerie chapter.

I should have been alerted when the title of the chapter was something like "Learn to Love Shapewear." I was flipping around to topics of interest, out of order as I often do. Let’s just say undergarments are a challenge when in the scope of three years you first gain 35 pounds, and then lose 30, while going through menopause and the natural rearrangements of age. And you’re still losing about a pound a week. So where will I end up? Meanwhile, how much should I invest in expensive undergarments? But the cheap ones aren’t fulfilling their duties properly. And so on.

So I dove into the chapter.

I was horrified.

Wear this new-fangled, supposedly comfortable shapewear every day? Bike-short shapewear under every pair of pants? Shapewear slips?

Girdles and Thongs

Didn’t I cast off girdles and garters, then pantyhose, back to garters, then down to bare legs over the course of my life? Am I not free of ancient corsets in this lifetime?

Sure, I need a new bra—but one that extends all the way down to my knees in the form of a full-figured suit of under-armor like the knights wore, only designed to “control” bulges and suppress jiggles? Isn’t that right back to the 1950s mindset of my mother’s generation: "no bottom wobbles allowed?"

So why was this author also advising readers to wear thongs!? And then to cover that with a shapewear piece that would cover only the possibly wiggly tummy, but leave the posterior, um, free?

She went on at length about various pieces to cover and mold various parts. Push it here, squish it there, compress it all over. Lift and separate. Compress and reduce too-full breasts. If you don’t like it, force it to behave. Move it and conquer it. You’re at war with your own body, this author seemed to say, Don’t give in! Shapewear is your weapon.

At this point, my astonishment drew out all my knowledge of Energy Medicine. Even a bra’s underwire can cut off the energy flow around the breasts, putting their health at risk. Energy Medicine pioneer Donna Eden recommends wire-free bras, and under-the-bra-line massages if you must wear them, to restimulate the flow of energy in and out of meridians and vital lymphatic points after you take it off.

Did we learn nothing from the ill health of young and older women in the Victorian and Edwardian eras—fainting, consumption, weakness, breathing ailments, and a host of preventable disasters? Is our vanity so profound?

By this point, I was happy to be in my flowy skirt with its gentle gauzy layers, wiggling and jiggling to my heart’s content. When my husband came home to hug me, he would not be finding an armor-plated barricade between us.

And forget allowing those four layers of sunscreen and other unpronounceable chemicals to "shield" my skin! My skin—the most permeable, largest organ in my body, which readily sucks up whatever I put on it and sends it scurrying through my bloodstream! The simplest and most common of all cosmetic ingredients—mineral oil—is a known carcinogen when not sufficiently refined. A dermatologist tipped me off to this when I was in my wee twenties, advising vegetable oil, which the skin absorbs, versus mineral oil, which lays on top and can interfere in the absorption of essential vitamins. (I confess: I use only highly-refined sesame cooking oil as a moisturizer these days.)

So why on earth would I now multiply all those still-unknown, newly-devised, man-made chemical concoctions on my face, in four layers, no less?

When I described it to Joseph later he said with dismay, “How could I lay my cheek against yours?”

Indeed. The poor man can’t even tolerate soap, his skin is so sensitive, and mine’s not much better.

“Ewww…” we said simultaneously, imagining the amount of goop smearing around between us.

Nope, it’s age spots for me, earned by soaking up real sunshine on happy days. Maybe for a special occasion, I might try a little foundation … otherwise, this is everyday me. Thankfully, I don’t work in a New York City office, which seems toxic enough.

The Real Horror

As I sat flipping those pages at my kitchen table, I suddenly felt the need to know more about this author. What does she look like? (I didn’t realize she was actually the model on the cover.)

Google found her very quickly, because she’d become something of a talk-show celebrity with her beauty advice. As my eyes scanned down the search results, the horror I’d felt earlier deepened in my stomach and spread all the way up to my greying roots. Chills covered the rest of me, and sadness.

She was exactly my age. I’d thought she surely must have been from an older generation. Her cover image, taken when she was 55 or so, indeed looked youthful. Her command to not go gently into old age was one she’d certainly followed. She began her writing career, as I had, working in the entertainment field. We had a lot in common in that she, too, was conscripted into her new career as a beauty editor based on something she’d written, just as I’d been conscripted into theater criticism for a time.

The shock was that she had achieved the ultimate defeat of aging. She died at age 58 from breast cancer, two years ago.

I’d been staring at a dead woman on that cover. And reading her advice.

Our bodies are energy. They respond to love—and to hate.

I can’t explain the grief I feel for her, as a fellow author. So many women will now find her book on library shelves and she can't do anything to change it.

Now I fully understood so much!

Aging Is Not the Enemy

Aging is not the enemy—self-loathing is. She fought her own body with chemicals and wrenches (shapewear) and surgical knives, hating every wrinkle and bulge.

Our bodies are energy. They respond to love—and to hate. How sad! How tragic! How NOT to fight aging! In fact, don’t fight it at all! Love it. Find things to love about yourself whatever size you are—which is the lesson I learned in the last three years of up and down the scale.

My sixtieth birthday reading adventure had led me right around in this circle of understanding. That’s why I say I can now see my Cosmic CoAuthors’ fingerprints. Who led me to this book in the first place? Who urged me to sit and read it when I had a million other things to do? Then who planted the idea of going into my office to Google this author? Hmm?? Was it coincidence? Or a brilliantly clever way to convince me, once and for all, that smearing chemicals on my face in a desperate attempt to preserve what cannot and should not be preserved is self-destructive? Self-defeating? Dangerous? And ignorant.

Sure, I’ll adjust my hemlines and wear things that actually fit. If it’s one thing I learned from my spiritual mentor, it is to dress to please oneself and make oneself feel beautiful and happy. But the book I now mourn over—for the author’s sake—is not about feeling wonderful. It’s about succumbing to the worst aspect one could cling to that might surface during the aging process: self-loathing. Rejection of our own beautiful Self, which is spirit masquerading for a brief time inside a flesh body.

As Joseph proclaimed, “But jiggling is how you know breasts are real!”

Indeed. Let the celebrations of wobbly, wibbly, jiggly, and draggy begin! I don’t fear death—so why should I fear aging? I will find things about it to love.

In fact, in truth, Joseph told me last month that I now walk like a much younger person than I did six months ago (at 25-30 pounds overweight), and my eyes sparkle like they haven’t for two years. I have so much more energy! I would tell you my diet and exercise secrets, but then I’d risk spreading any mistakes I’m currently making. And I'm sure I will discover what those are in the future.

Find your own way—the one that suits the Spirit inside your body—and may you always enjoy the journey, wherever it takes you: up and down a scale, or up and down mountains and into jungles. Your Cosmic CoAuthors will surely be there with gentle guidance when you need it.